How to survive a Volcanic Eruption

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A volcano eruption in 2023 is not something people experience too often in their everyday lives, except if those people live in an area near a volcano. But life itself is full of unpredictable events. You never know. Of course, it is better if you never get to face the volcano’s actual eruption, but this information will be useful if you want to survive it.

Sadly, volcanic eruptions are still the cause of many deaths and damage. You can read about mount Vesuvius, mount st Helens (st Helens story is very interesting and horrifying at the same time), Pompeii and others, and you will understand how serious is the topic of volcanoes. Some people may think that you can only die because of lava flows, but this is not true. There are several results of volcanic eruption, like toxic smog, mud, and even tsunami. Everything from this list can be fatal for a person who is not prepared.

1. Be Aware of Danger

Read articles about the potential danger of volcanoes and ensure the area you are going to travel to is not in the danger zone. Always check the information about volcanoes if you are traveling or live near one. When it comes to active volcanoes, you do not want to miss the latest information. Countries like the United States, Australia, and many more have an official website where scientists post and update information about volcanoes and will warn you of impending eruption and emergency.

2. Be Ready for Action

Any updates on volcanoes are important. The earlier you know about the possible eruption, the more time you have to prepare for it, and the more confident and safe you will feel when an eruption occurs.

Preparation must be the following:

  • You should know the nearest shelter in your area where you and your family can escape to. And you should also create some evacuation plan, think of a way to get to the shelter fast and safely in case of an emergency. Do not plan to use the car because volcanic ash can damage its mechanism. Learn about evacuation routes. And prepare a physical map of your evacuation routes, but better try to remember it.
  • Be aware of volcanic eruption emergency alerts and understand what do they mean.
  • You should gather your documents and the most important things, an emergency kit. Do not take a lot with you, only stuff you can not live without (documents, prescription medications, first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, batteries, sleeping bags, clothes for a couple of days, etc.). It is better to have a prepared list of things you want to take. Every family member should be ready, and it is probably a great idea for each member to have a separate emergency kit or at least the first aid kit. Sometimes most of the items from this list are already in the shelter, but you may not be so lucky because usually, at some shelters, there are too many people with the same needs as yours.
  • Know about evacuation procedures in your area. Check the hazard-zone map to see where are the safest places to be during the eruption.
  • Cover all your vehicles that are left outside.
  • Save plenty of clean water supplies.

Collect as much information as possible. If you are living with your family make sure that every family member is aware of everything, share the information with them (maybe share some links online, or make some calls from time to time). In case of emergency, you all must know what to do and where to go, so you do not lose each other during the eruption.

2. Don’t Panic

Panic can ruin anything: you fail to make appropriate decisions, you are terrified, and all your actions are in vain. The state of panic can become really contagious and infect groups of people. In such a case, staying alive and unharmed can get extremely complicated. Try to calm yourself down and be an example of strength and meaningful decision-making. Remember, the lives of your dear ones can be dependant on you, so fretting should be eliminated.

However, it doesn’t imply that you should not be active. On the contrary, your concentration and decisiveness should be the life-boats for yourself and the people who are facing the danger with you.

3. Stay Indoors

Volcanic ash and poisonous gas is no joke. If you do not need to go to another place (or simply can not do it for some reason) and stay home, you must shut all the doors and windows. If you have a fireplace, it should be somehow closed too. Also, you can not use your air conditioning systems. Basically, you should get read of any contact with the outside air during an eruption. If you have some furniture outside and other things it is better to move them inside too because of the ashfall. And volcanic ash is a hard thing to clean off.

The essential thing — keep gutters and roof clear of heavy deposits of volcanic ash, which can collapse the roof. (But do not clean the roof if you have breathing problems, because ash is very harmful to your lungs. Also, do it carefully, since ash is pretty slippery.)

And remember: you can not go outside until it is officially allowed for all citizens. Air outside can be very dangerous during a volcano eruption. Also, do not forget about possible lava flows.

4. Turn on your Radio

This is very important, especially during a volcanic eruption. Authorities will definitely advise you what to do and where to go during the eruption. You should keep your radio and television on. The latest updates will be there, and you should not miss them out.

So if you feel that something strange is happening, for example, you feel the earthquake or see that volcano starts to look active, or other warning signs turn the radio immediately. The best solution is to have a radio that you can take with you, a battery-powered one. Because if you and your family are leaving your house you still need to receive fresh information and updates on the situation, a battery-powered radio is a perfect solution.

Also, check social media. A lot of useful information about local eruption might be there as well.

5. Avoid Hazards Outdoors

So, first of all, you should be educated about the hazards of an active volcano. But if a volcano eruption took you by surprise outside of your home, you should try to avoid the following:

  • The flows of lava or molten rock. The most and well-known and mainly associated with the eruption of volcanoes thing. Even children know that lava is something red, scorching, and hazardous. But what else? The flows of lava are not always red. They can look dark and solid, but do not let lava fool you. It can be liquid underneath.
  • Ash from the volcano. Along with lava, ash is the most common thing about the eruption. But it is way more dangerous and harmful than lava. Ash from the volcano is not nice and soft. It is made of little fragments of stone and glass. Sounds like something you would not like to be in your lungs, huh? The harm that an active volcano can bring to you can be even fatal. This is not only bad for your health but the environment as well. Ash even can turn a day into night.
  • Volcanic domes. These things are most likely to explode when you least expect them to. When lava is cool after the eruption, it might look glassy, but do not step on it. It is very sharp and can hurt your feet. Wear proper boots.
  • Lahars or debris flows. These are cold and fast flows with rock fragments, which often follow the river valleys and move very fast. It can be the cause of the flood and great damage.
  • Volcanic gases. Among all hazards, this can hurt you the most. Be careful and listen to what authorities say about areas with volcano gas. Make sure to avoid those areas at all terms. Carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide, these gases are killing everything and everyone.
  • Pyroclastic flows. Try not to get close to volcanoes about to have pyroclastic explosions like Mount St. Helens had in 1980. This is pretty obvious advice, but in case you did not know it, the heat from the pyroclastic flow is very dangerous.
  • Unexplored geysers and hot springs. This type of location might be hazardous because you can burn there alive. Better do not try to be Dora the Explorer when it comes to geothermal areas. Do not try to go to the zone prohibited by the government. If those places are not included in your tourist program, think of a reason why.

Scientists are carefully monitoring volcanoes and volcanic activity, and they know when a volcano becomes active. You should also know it if your safety depends on that knowledge.

6. What to do When it is Safe Again?

When authorities say that it is safe to go outside, you can do it. But first of all, you should continue to be very careful.

  • Wear respiratory protection every time you go outside because poisonous gases might still be there, wear respiratory protection especially if you are cleaning the ash.
  • You should also wear goggles since ash is harmful to your eyes, so eye protection is critical.
  • Actually, your whole body should be protected: wear clothes with long sleeves and made of thick fabric. Your shoes must be also thick because you do not want to pierce your feet.
  • For the first couple of days, you still better not turn on your air conditioning systems, though the pollution might be not so dangerous now, ash from the volcano is still in the air and can damage the mechanisms of your systems. Try not to make calls, except for an emergency. Telecommunications and mobile operators are usually overloaded after disasters. People are making important phone calls to find each other, so do not call if you do not have an urge to do that.
  • Avoid lava flows, some of them might look safe and frozen, but underneath the black frozen layer, there can still be a great danger.
  • Your aim is to survive the eruption itself and survive all the consequences of the eruption.

Survival Tips to Keep in Mind

Yes, eruptions do happen. If you live near a volcano, you must know all the information presented in the article by heart. If you live near a potentially dangerous volcano, you should know the nearest shelter in your area and make sure you know how to get there fast and safe. You should also be familiar with your local emergency management agency and a detailed emergency management plan created by the authorities. You and your family must have your own emergency plan, after all. When you live near a volcano, these things do not seem strange. Volcanoes are difficult neighbors to live in peace with.

If you do not live near a volcano, you are probably less updated on this topic. Make sure to check websites with the latest updates when you travel somewhere. You should know about dangerous and safe areas, what to expect, and where to go in case of an emergency, and what shelter will be the closest to your hotel if you are on vacation in an unfamiliar area. To ensure your safety, you also need to have a first aid kit, prescription medications, good quality clothes, and boots, plan everything, and be ready to face natural disasters.

These pieces of advice may seem obvious to some people, but when it comes to an emergency, it is better to read everything twice; it will help you to remember it better and save you from panic if a disaster occurs.


A former USA Army sergeant and a highly educated survivalist and prepper with a degree and interest in Engineering and Electronics, Mike Millerson applies his extensive expertise in survivalism, homesteading, backpacking, hiking and hunting, spreading his deep knowledge about handling emergencies and prepping for them reasonably and effectively.




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